Jesse's legal defence fund

Sharon Lewis
Posted August 1, 2019 from Canada

https://www.facebook.com/donate/468358503728272/10219474772078501/

Story

I am the single parent of twin sons, 14 years old, turning 15 in August. Both of which have a variety of special needs. We are descendants and tribal members of the White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa.  I am confronted with a situation which requires me to obtain legal representation for my child with special needs, whom was just recently charged by Gogebic County, Michigan with a Domestic Violence offence against me. I have been given 30 days to secure him legal council. WE NEED to raise money for a retainer, lawyer and court fees. Any extra will be used for Jesse's health care needs. I refused to fill out any kind of police report against my child when the officers came back to following day. MY child was NEVER ARRESTED at the time of the incident or READ HIS RIGHTS.  The day of the incident was Traumatic for Jesse, he had been having several issues with the school this week. The school had a fire alarm and they did not follow Jesse's IEP protocol. This protocol requires Jesse to be taken out of the build prior to alarms going off and having a noise blocking head set as he is severely sensitive to high pitched sounds lights and large crowds. They had him exit to school with no preparation and no ear protection with over 400 students. They did not inform me of any incident occurring at school that day or any of them prior. I picked him up at noon as usual, as he only attended school for 3 hours a day. He was in panic mode when they walked him to my van. He didn't say much but about half way home he attempted to jump out of the car while we were moving. He successfully did at a stop sign 3 blocks from our home whole the van was stopped.  His agitation only increased as the afternoon went on, he tried standing in the road to get hit by a car... This boy is big and looks like a man. He's 5'11' and 322 lbs. I cannot force him out of the road or restrain him safely. I called his mental health caseworker and they called the police to request safe transport to the emergency room as it was NOT SAFE for me to transport him alone.  When the Ironwood police department arrived the female officer got here first. She has never been to my home or met Jesse so I began explaining to her the situation. Jesse was at the time seated, non verbalizing at all, in a outside chair in the driveway. Then Officer Schneider(need to check spelling) arrived. Immediately he was very aggressive with me asking me questions like. What are you doing with him, we can't come here for this anymore. NOT ONCE did any officer even speak with my child. They told me that if I called 911 for help again they would not respond to my home anymore. At one point both officers were screaming at me and I began crying telling them I need help and it was not safe that they need to take him to the E.R. Then Officer Schneider told me they didn't have to and if Jesse was violent when they arrived that they “wouldn't try to stop him, he's too big, I'd just shoot”. I couldn't breath, my heart sank because I knew my son had just heard that. Jesse was right there he heard this whole conversation. We have also recently lost a close family friends son due to an officer involved shooting in Bad River. Jason Pero was shot by an officer during a mental health crises. Flashes of the video of Jason laying dying in the street while the officer did nothing to help played raced through my mind. I still shake when I think about it. We have not called the police and avoid them at all costs. As the trauma is still very fresh in his mind. I finally got the female officer to agree to transport him but she only agreed if she could stay and “talk to the crisis worker.” I was informed After the Officer left that she told them that the police wouldn't provide safe transport for Jesse anymore and that it was the County Mental Health agency's responsibility to provide that. The Crisis worker spoke with Jesse and I and that same evening, he was released home. He was not kept overnight for any kind of suicide observation and prevention. They refused to seek out an appropriate treatment option at this time. He was released home. My domestic partner, drove an hour and a half back from where he was working to assist me with our own suicide watch overnight, and he was taken to see his counsellor the next morning. I am doing everything I can to get my child the proper help. I have been cooperating with all departments and am in full compliance with the law. I have been committed to my own mental health care and personal growth as a parent to provide for my child effectively. I feel I am doing my absolute best, as a single mother on limited income, providing for twins, and preparing them for their futures.  As a parent, I must advocate for my child. The following statement will explain why I require legal support and explain what is preventing me from obtaining a lawyer. My child requires a lawyer that specializes in 3 areas, Indian Child Welfare, Disability Rights and Criminal Law. My son with special needs is diagnosed with cognitive and emotional disabilities.  He also has survived trauma in his life and is actively learning coping skills.  My son was diagnosed with emotional or Intermittent explosive disorder, which is fairly new diagnosis and has emerged with puberty. His behavioural symptoms are heightened with increased environmental stress.  He has been participating in a home based trauma focused; community psychiatric supportive treatment, face to face with child and family therapy, and our family has been assigned a team of professional caseworkers. We have added authorization for a psychiatric evaluation to revisit his progress and deliver the appropriate treatment. We are experiencing positive outcomes and progress. We still have peaks and valleys while he adjusts to his new routine. It has taken three years to get him into this program and provide the appropriate course of treatment.  My child is a beautiful child, he is loving and caring of others. He is sensitive towards others needs and feelings. He cares about his environment and growing his skills and talents. He loves to build things. He wants to fix the problems of the world and cares about other kids. He demonstrates tremendous love for life and hope for his future. He is able to thrive well with no behavioural issues if there is low environmental stress. It is important to provide the right support and regulate his surroundings. He does his best engaging in his cultural practices with few people and low stress. He works best independently going at his own pace. He is skilled at fishing, archery, harvesting plants, and has a great connection with his culture and nature.  What is happening to him within the criminal justice system is severely traumatizing him and disrupting his progress and personal growth.  My child has had no police contact since this incident.  Going through this experience and trying to prepare him has caused detriment and delayed his progress, causing him to experience unnecessary psychological stress being pulled through the justice system. Is this justice, charging a child with these emotional and cognitive conditions and then having him brought through these criminal charges while unrepresented by a lawyer?  I feel the system is already finding him guilty without due process as I was specifically told by agents within the corrections system that I would lose custody and my child would be a ward of the state permanently. I was told that they will put my son in a juvenile detention facility and move him down state and leave it up to the institution to decide if he was ever released.  SYSTEMIC BARRIERS Services provide therapy for ether emotional -OR- cognitive disabilities. My child has both, and I am not able to qualify him for both programs to deliver the appropriate treatment plan which align with all his needs. Treatment facilities typically are not effectively capable to serve clients with cognitive disabilities and emergency beds are available for AODA patients and suicide prevention situations, and not able to service my child during his time of need.  Education creates another systematic problem, which limits our community and results in a lack of services available to children with special needs. He requires the development of an academic plan which will deliver an enriching learning experience that is developmentally appropriate.  Michigan state law no matter their disability should be taught to the best of their ability, and I am able to keep him actively enrolled until 26, however in a traditional classroom he is not able to function in the learning environment. During fire drills or other school procedures, my child does not receive adequate support and this triggers stress and explosive behaviour when he is not able to process the stimuli in a state of panic. This happens shopping too, at Dr.s appointments. We are all actively working towards helping him adjust and cope using self managing strategies.  Sometimes, my child struggles processing stimuli resulting in abusive behaviours which are able to be redirected, and sometimes he requires mental health intervention support. When his triggers are identified and environmental stress is reduced, his behaviour is positive. He is responsive when he is allowed time to cope and calms down when stress and stimuli is reduced. He needs a learning coach to assist him during an uptick in behaviour, or times of environmental stress. He is working on identifying and processes his emotions to self regulate. We are also working on re-grounding techniques to help him cope and manage his behaviour independently.  What I have going for me to be a great mom for my kids… I own my own home and it is paid off. I am very proud to have established stability and security for my children. It isn’t a mansion, but we make it home. I hold an Associate’s degree in Sustainable Development granted by the College of Menominee Nation, and Bachelor’s in Life Science Communications granted by the College of Agriculture and Life Science, University of Wisconsin Madison.  I hold a strong value for making sure all children including my own children have access to equal opportunities and a quality education. I only take consulting jobs for work, so I can be a full time caregiver to my child. I am sure many parents who have children with special needs are able to relate to the challenges related to lack of resources, balancing the needs of our children with the demands of our daily work.  During times he has ran off from me, or eloped from the home, I have had to call law enforcement to inform them that my Autistic son was mobile and we worked together to get him home safely or transport him to an emergency room when necessary. Now that he has grown into a young man, according to his most recent psychiatric evaluation, he is still cognitively functioning at a 7 or 8 year level. The police are not responding appropriately to his mental health needs and are criminalizing my child. Officer Schieder of the Ironwood City Police Department refused to transport my child when he needed services at the Emergency Room.  Demographically, I am dislocated from services and programs. The nearest child and adolescent psychiatric hospital are all located in lower Michigan, or Madison Wisconsin, out of my state but closer in travel distance. There has not been affirmative action to get him into any program. It seems that criminalization and institualization has been their goal in focus.  The state of Michigan does not have public defenders, they contract with private firms. Rudy Prahala Law Offices located in Ironwood, is the attorney the court uses for child liaison officer and the public defender for children facing criminal charges. It is my feeling that an attorney facilitating both of these roles creates a conflict of interest. WE NEED AN ATTOURNEY Philomena Kebec gave me a really good idea People can Also call the prosecuting attorney Tracie Wititla the courthouse number is (906) 667-0471. Please demand his case be dropped or he given a Mental Health Diversion Plan by Deferred Judgement

Fundraiser for Fawn Youngbear-Tibbetts of White Earth Band

Let us stop the criminalization of native youth in North America, please help Fawn to raise enough funds to help her and her son.

Comments 2

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Jill Langhus
Aug 01
Aug 01

Hi Sharon,

How are you doing? Thanks for sharing this troubling story. It's sounds like the legal system doesn't have appropriate funding and resources to handle her son's special needs, unfortunately and aren't handling the situation well at all:-( But what charges are against him and what did he actually do? It sounds like the more appropriate action wokuld be to contact the attorney and have the case dropped to me, if he's not a threat to his mom and/or society. To me, that hasn't been determined. Can you clarify?

Hope you're doing well and having a good week.

Hello, Sharon,

I truly empathize and understand what Jesse’s mother is saying. I’m appalled by the lack of compassion by the police. Why would they threatened to shoot Jesse?

He was clearly traumatized and his school should follow the EIP agreement. They disrespect his needs. The alarm/bell is too loud for his sensory processing system. That is the reason why he acted differently going home.

This is truly frustrating! To think this is in Canada? Did they lack empathy because he belong to an indigenous tribe? This disturbs and angers me as a mon raising a son with special needs.

I’m sorry I couldn’t help her find or hire a lawyer. I hope she can find one though. She and Jesse have rights!

Thank you for sharing.